Business owners in Anna Maria who have A-frame signs outside their premises now have 30 days to breathe easier and make their case.
They have a month to find solutions to keep the signs, which had been declared blight by the city and illegal under a new ordinance that passed its final reading Feb. 25.
Anna Maria commissioners agreed at a March 3 special meeting to ask Mayor SueLynn not to enforce the ordinance for 30 days. The mayor agreed.
Commissioner Dale Woodland said that the section of the sign ordinance that eliminated A-frame signs outdoors at businesses slipped through the cracks. Woodland, who called the meeting, said it fell through because most of the sign ordinance discussion focused on real estate signs.
“I really believe it was an oversight. Had it come up, I would have had a discussion. During the ordinance hearings, everything was about real estate. I think this just fell through the cracks.”
A business is allowed to have a sign, but several business owners, including Markus Siegler of Beach Fashions Boutique in the old Anna Maria post office building, 9808 Gulf Drive, said people walking or driving by could not readily see his business.
“It’s in the corner of the building. Without the A-frame outside, many people do not even know we are there,” he said.
Siegler produced several statements from customers who said they were drawn to the business because they saw the A-frame sign displayed in front of the building.
Business owner Brian Seymour of Anna Maria General Store and Deli, 307 Pine Ave., said he doesn’t use an A-frame sign, but other businesses are aided by the marketing tool. He suggested establishing a procedure for a business to obtain one A-frame sign.
Deb Webster said her business is upstairs at the new post office in the Bayview Plaza, 101 S. Bay Boulevard, and people wouldn’t notice her location without the benefit of the extra sign downstairs on the plaza property.
“I would lose significant business if people didn’t see my sign,” she said.
Commissioner Carol Carter said she originally was “of a mind to let businesses do what they want with an A-frame.”
But after touring the business district March 2, she said she found several businesses with more than one A-frame and some were placed in the right of way.
She was concerned that if the commission gives businesses “an inch, they’ll take a mile.”
Woodland suggested a cooling-off period of 30 days and made a motion to allow code enforcement officers 30 days from March 3 before removing signs. Only one A-frame per business was permitted in the motion, and A-frame signs in the right of way will not be allowed.
Commissioner Doug Copeland added that businesses should meet as a group with building official Bob Welch, city planner Alan Garrett, code enforcement officer Gerry Rathvon and the mayor to discuss options.
Copeland suggested there might be a procedure for a variance to obtain an A-frame.
City attorney Jim Dye cautioned that regulating signs should not be about content — although menu boards were allowed in the new ordinance — because of the possible violation of free speech.
Commissioners unanimously approved the motion and SueLynn said she would organize a meeting with the staff and business owners.
The moratorium will expire April 3.